On Monday, Nov. 2, President Paxson broke out her laptop and joined a workshop aimed at helping Brown students learn to code using the programming language Python. “Python with Paxson” was presented by Hack@Brown, a student group that organizes Brown’s annual student hackathon.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In an increasingly digital world, coding is no longer a skill useful only to hackers and software engineers. It could come in handy in lots of different jobs — perhaps even for a university president.

Last night, Brown President Christina Paxson sat in on a workshop offered by Hack@Brown, a student group that, among other activities, organizes Brown’s annual student hackathon.

The workshop aimed to give students an entré into Python, an open-source programming language popular both for its power and ease of use. “I think Python is a really good language to start off with,” said Alex Karim, a junior who led the workshop, “especially for people who have never programmed before. It’s also a multipurpose language, so you can do lots of different tasks with it.”

At the workshop, Karim and a bevy of Hack@Brown volunteers showed around 40 workshop attendees how to use Python to make a Caeser cipher, a method of encrypting words by shifting letters in the alphabet. Karim walked with group through about 20 lines of code that could encrypt and decrypt messages.

It’s a fairly rudimentary method of encryption, but it provided a good way to teach variables, functions, for-loops and other basic programming concepts.

Having successfully written her program along with the other attendees, Paxson said she was pleased with what she saw at the event.

“Coding is an increasingly valuable skill for all of our students, regardless of concentration,” Paxson said. “We’ve made data fluency an educational priority at Brown, and it’s great to see Hack@Brown students volunteering their time to help their classmates.”

This was the fourth Hack@Brown workshop this year, and the first in a series that will focus on Python. Future Python workshops will take place on Nov. 11 and 23.